August 22, 2012

« With figures and pictographs chipped into stone, the Dighton Writing Rock sits near the Taunton River in southeastern Massachusetts. From 1680 onwards, observers sketched the inscriptions, with divergent results. Same rock, different views […] Some of these uncertain drawings, when sent off to European scholars, were then converted into far-reaching historical discoveries of startling visits to the New World. One researcher “triumphantly established” the marks as Scythian; a distinguished Orientalist detected the word melek (king) on the rock; others thought they saw Phoenician or Runic script. A Scandinavian antiquary translated the drawings into an account of a pre-Columbian sojourn to America by a party of Thorfinn the Hopeful. Since the writing resembles that on the Indian God Rock hundreds of miles southwest, such logic places the Vikings far inland, deep into what is now West Virginia and Ohio. All this scholarship of wishful thinking denies priority to the original Native-American residents; local experts conclude that the marks are Algonquin. »
~ “Envisioning information”, Tufte.

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